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Affordable Housing Resources

Table of Contents:
Data Revealing the Affordable Housing Crisis
Tools to Preserve Affordable Housing
Tools to Create New Affordable Housing:
         Inclusionary Zoning
How Condo Conversions Helped Create Today’s Affordable Housing Crisis

Data

Out of Reach 2014: America’s Housing Wage Climbs. This link takes you to the 25th Anniversary Edition (2014) of the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual report on the high cost of housing (published March 2014). You can view state data and download the entire report here. Despite the emphasis on homeownership and the marginalization of renters, renter households still make up fully one–third of the households in the United States – more than 36 million households. Out of Reach is a side–by–side comparison of wages and rents in every county, Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), combined nonmetropolitan area and state in the United States. For each jurisdiction, the report calculates the amount of money a household must earn in order to afford a rental unit of a range of sizes (0, 1, 2, 3, and 4 bedrooms) at the area’s Fair Market Rent (FMR), based on the generally accepted affordability standard of paying no more than 30% of income for housing costs. From these calculations the hourly wage a worker must earn to afford the FMR for a two bedroom home is derived. This figure is the Housing Wage. A must read — not to be missed!

Millennial Housing Commission Report. This bipartisan 22–member commission appointed by Congress in December 2000, produced this 134–page report confirms that there is a serious growing shortage of affordable housing. “At the opening of the new millennium, the nation faces a widening gap between the demand for affordable housing and the supply of it.” Published May 2002.

Condo

“But unless the action and policies called for here are adopted and implemented within the next few years, America’s middle class faces an otherwise unavoidable housing disaster, the likes of which we have not seen since the Great Depression.” — Daniel Lauber, written testimony March 31, 1980.

Written and oral testimony to Congress by Daniel Lauber explains how unbridled conversion of profitable and affordable rental housing to condominiums in the late 1970s and early 1980s wiped out much of the nation’s affordable rental housing, contributing to inflation in housing costs and leading to the growing affordable housing crisis of the past 30 years. Just about everything he warned would happen has happened. And once the rest of the housing industry adopted the practices of the condominium converters, that “unavoidable housing disaster” of which he spoke came true in the past decade.

Tools to Preserve

Low–equity cooperatives = Housing solutions. View or download the PDF file of this two–page call to revive the most successful housing program in U.S. history and viable component for solving the affordable housing crisis. Learn what low–equity cooperatives are and how they keep housing affordable in perpetuity without ongoing massive taxpayer subsidies.

Stemming the Tide: A Handbook on Preserving Subsidized Multifamily Housing by Emily Achtenberg (76 pages) starts by tracing the history of key federal housing subsidy programs and provides an overview of the subsidized housing preservation problem.  It addresses the two major threats to preservation: expiring use restrictions (or subsidized mortgage prepayments) and expiring subsidy contracts (Section 8 housing). Chapter Two outlines the tools that are currently available to preservation advocates under federal laws and programs. Chapter Three explores preservation tools and strategies developed by advocates and practitioners at the state and local level. Finally, Chapter Four explains how to research properties in order to build the foundation for a preservation strategy.

Right at Home: Local Support for Employer–Assisted Housing. This eight–page monograph provides strong evidence of the need for housing near jobs and its benefits. Published October 2003 by the Campaign for Sensible Growth.

Tools to Create

Increasing the Stock of Affordable Housing: The Value of Difference Strategies in a Growing Crisis. This 18–page study by the famed Woodstock Institute in Chicago examines a panoply of approaches. Published February 2004.

Sacramento County Passes Strong Inclusionary Zoning


       One of the more aggressive inclusionary zoning laws in the country went into effect in December 2004 in Sacramento County, California. Developers must set aside 15 percent of all construction in unincorporated areas of the county for low–income residents. While the 15 percent figure is not unusually high for California, where 117 cities and counties have inclusionary zoning regulations, the income guidelines are particularly strong in this case. Three percent of construction must be earmarked for the extremely low income, such as a family of three earning under $17,300 a year. The rest of the affordable units must be divided between very low–income families earning under $28,850 and low–income families earning less than $46,150. For projects of more than 20 units, developers must build the affordable units or give the county enough land to cover the obligation, but on smaller projects they can pay the county $10,000 per affordable unit rather than build it. (Sacramento Bee, 12/2/04)

Handbook on: Developing Inclusionary Zoning. If you want to start your inclusionary zoning education, start with this excellent handbook from the Rhode Island Department of Administration’s Statewide Planning Program. The first two chapters provide a brief explanation and introduction to inclusionary housing. Chapter three proffers excerpts from national, regional, and local case studies on establishing inclusionary zoning ordinances. Chapter four identifies the types of issues and provisions to consider when crafting an inclusionary zoning code. Chapter five walks readers through each section of an inclusionary zoning ordinance. Published November 2004.

The New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing offers a plethora (I just love using that word) of invaluable resources dealing with the nuts and bolts of inclusionary zoning programs. Click here for the state’s Uniform Housing Affordability Controls.

Inclusionary Zoning: Ideas You Can Use From HUD’s Regulatory Barriers Clearinghouse is a simple introduction to fundamental inclusionary zoning issues. This PDF file is a 41–page “slideshow” that does a good job of introducing readers to many of the issues that need to be considered when drafting an inclusionary zoning ordinance. The other resources on inclusionary zoning listed below will make more sense if you spend 10 minutes reading this document.

How do you keep affordable housing affordable over time? That’s the question addressed by the 2006 study Ensuring Continued Affordability in Homeownership Programs from the Institute for Local Government.

Inclusionary Zoning: A Viable Solution to the Affordable Housing Crisis? This 54–page report from the National Housing Conference finds that inclusionary zoning can play a key role in meeting the growing need for housing affordable to people of modest means. Published October 2000.

Expanding Housing Options Through Inclusionary Zoning. This nine–page monograph offers case studies of several inclusionary zoning  programs and includes a table comparing inclusionary zoning programs in Boston; Boulder, CO; Davis, CA; Fairfax County, VA; Irvine, CA; Longmont, CO; Montgomery County, MD; and Santa Fe, NM. Published June 2001 by the Campaign for Sensible Growth.

Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance Upheld

Home Builders Association of Northern California v. City of Napa

Napa, California adopted an inclusionary housing ordinance that required 10 percent of all new housing units to be made affordable to low–income families. Developers can comply by dedicating land for such units or by developing affordable units on another site. They can also pay an in–lieu fee or, in some circumstances, seek an adjustment or waiver. Those who comply with the ordinance receive incentives such as faster permitting and a density bonus. The ordinance was developed through an extensive consensus–building process that included ample representation from the development community.

The Home Builders Association challenged the ordinance arguing, among other things, that the regulation failed to substantially advance a legitimate state interest. The First District Court of Appeal rejected the Home Builders’ claim. In language that will be useful in a variety of future disputes, the court found that the underlying purpose of the ordinance substantially furthered a very important state interest: providing affordable housing. The court also declined to apply the Nollan/Dolan heightened scrutiny standard because the requirement was adopted legislatively. Moreover, the court ruled that the developer’s facial challenge must fail because the ordinance allows a developer to apply for a complete waiver of the ordinance’s requirements.

Inclusionary Zoning: Lessons Learned in Massachusetts. This 48–page in–depth study from the National Housing Conference examines different inclusionary zoning laws in Massachusetts. It finds that they must be mandatory to work and explains how to avoid a takings claim. It’s essential reading. Published 2002.

Rethinking Local Affordable Housing Strategies: Lessons From 70 Years of Policy and Practice. This 138 page discussion paper from The Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy and The Urban Institute Foundation, finds that “past and current efforts to expand rental housing assistance, promote homeownership, and increase affordable housing through land use regulations have been uneven in their effectiveness in promoting stable families and healthy communities. The findings suggest guiding principles for local action, with important cautions to avoid pitfalls.” Published December 2003.

California Inclusionary Zoning Reader. This thorough 162–page tome comes from the Institute for Local Self Government , the nonprofit research arm of the League of California Cities. It defines “inclusionary zoning,” examines the pros and cons, addresses implementation and legal issues, and proffers a sample inclusionary zoning ordinance. It’s essential reading.

Inclusionary Zoning: The California Experience. View or download the PDF file of this 62–page study by the National Housing Conference. Published February 2004.